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State Smoking Ban Hits Area Eateries

The state’s restaurant smoking ban – described as one of the strongest in the region and the strongest among tobacco producing states by Gov. Tim Kaine’s office - took effect Tuesday.

Some area restaurants were already operating smoke-free, but other restaurant owners said last Monday would be the last smoking day in their facilities, describing the cost to create a separate area with separate ventilation as too expensive.

“In Italy, where I am from, it is no smoking in public places for the past five years,” explained Viny Sarnataro. Italian Delight has been smoke-free several years, he added, citing his concern for children, the elderly, all of his patrons, in deciding to go smoke-free.

“We are going to be basically a smoke-free area,” said Spare Times Grill owner Jay Burnett. “Our bowling center will be smoke-free as well,” he added. “We will have a designated smoking area outside.”

While Burnett is considering developing an alternative smoking area, he said that  “right now the cost to do so - the code calls for separate area and ventilation - seems prohibitive.” He cites the severity of the code restrictions, suggesting owners could have a separate room with a stated capacity and smoke-eater requirements based on square footage.

“It seems that would just as easily take care of the issue rather than going to these restrictions,” continued Burnett. “It seems to be a backward way of handling it. I’m one of the newer restaurants, and I spent $15,000 to deal with second-hand smoke,” an investment that appears to have gone up in smoke with the new state smoking ban.

The businessman hopes the smoking ban will not affect his business, expressing hope that he will see an increase from non-smokers. “But,” he added, “I’m a little apprehensive (about) how the ban will affect all area restaurants.

“I feel like the restaurants and food establishments are being unfairly singled out,” said the business owner. “If there’s going to be a policy, it should be public policy everywhere.”
Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar Manager David Elliott said as of Tuesday, the facility is smoke-free. Prior to the smoking ban the bar area had accommodated smokers. He added that as of Monday, Applebee’s had not made the improvements required by the state (for a smoking area), but it is being explored, according to the manager.

Four Oaks Restaurant & Lounge is in an enviable position due to its previous expansion, and is in the process of completing code requirements for smoking in the bar area, one of its managers, Johnny Watkins, said Monday.

Prior to Tuesday’s smoking ban, Four Oaks allowed smoking.

“We’re very fortunate,” he explained, “when we expanded it was into another building, so there’s a separate fire wall and ventilation (system) in place.”

Mi Carreta Mexican Restaurant owner Jose Torres plans to have a smoking section at his restaurant. The bar and its restaurant area will be separated from the non-smoking area of the restaurant, according to Torres.

The Packhouse in Halifax opened as a smoke-free facility, so the restaurant will not be affected by the state smoking ban, according to owners Carol and Betsy Throckmorton.

Rebel’s Roost Sports Bar & Grill will have a separate room for smokers, according to spokesman Kimberly Hall. Prior to the ban, smoking was allowed at the bar and grill. The separate room will allow Rebel’s Roost to continue offering a smoking area for patrons as well as offer a separate smoke-free area for non-smokers.

At Pino’s, which previously offered a smoking and a non-smoking section, a smoke-free policy was initiated following the state ban.

Roma’s restaurant also previously offered a smoking and a non-smoking section for patrons, but beginning yesterday, the restaurant is smoke-free, according to manager Sam Barkr. The manager said that Roma’s would explore its options.

The Molasses Grill, which allowed smoking at its bar prior to Tuesday’s ban, will now be totally smoke-free, according to spokesman.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the resources to put in a separate heat and ventilation system, which would cost thousands of dollars,” said owner/chef Steven Schopen. “Even if we did, it would not achieve a zero air transfer as our hood fans in the kitchen draw so much air in,” he said of the open kitchen.

The Bistro 1888, which was a smoke-free restaurant prior to the ban, initiated its smoke-free policy in March of 2005.

On Tuesday, the American Lung Association in Virginia commended Gov. Kaine and the General Assembly as the new law went into effect “prohibiting smoking in all public restaurants that do not have separately ventilated rooms for smokers.”

During restaurant inspections, a Virginia Department of Health representative will check for smoking paraphernalia and for the required “no smoking” signs on display, according to a Kaine spokesman.

During scheduled visits or spot-checks, health officials also will observe whether anyone is smoking in a smoke-free area and whether any and all designated smoking areas are structurally separate from non-smoking dining areas.

Violators will face a $25 fine as will restaurant owners found not enforcing the new law.